This article is part of our collaboration with SHAG Cardiff, a society at the University of Cardiff promoting sexual health and safe sex in a sex positive environment! Make sure to check them out here!
Words: Ffion Nugent (SHAG Treasurer) & Iona Frenguelli (SHAG President)
Illustration: Sian Hopkins (SHAG Social Media Secretary)
How people view sex has been greatly altered since the wake of the pandemic. The strict social distancing rules in the UK have restricted people from meeting up with others in public places and travelling in between homes. This has caused dating and visiting sexual partners outside of someone’s immediate household to become increasingly difficult. More and more people have turned to masturbation and enaging in virtual sex activities. Despite the vast majority of sexually active people to adapt their sex lives to a more covid-friendly realm, there are countless myths surrounding sex and covid-19.
As a Student-Led Service at Cardiff University, the philosophy of SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness Group) is to provide barrier contraception and to educate students and the public about how to maintain a healthy sexual wellbeing. This involves delivering information about how to have safe sex during the covid-19 pandemic. So here we provide to you the current lockdown rules (January 2021), advice from sexual health charities, facts, figures, hints and tips!
The Rules (Jan 2021) and Advice:
The rules say you must not meet indoors with anyone unless you live with them, or if they’re part of your support bubble. A support bubble is when a single-adult household joins another household – they can still visit each other and stay overnight. So unless you live with your partner or they’re in your chosen bubble, meeting up for sex is off the cards for now! The Terrence Higgins Trust (2020) state that 82% of people across the UK have only had sex with their consentual sexual partner within their immediate household since the pandemic began in March 2020. To help reduce contact further, The Terrence Higgins Trust (2020) also advise people with a consensual sexual partner within their household to avoid kissing and choose positions that minimise facial contact. As well as practice using condoms and dental dams for barrier protection during oral sex.
The Best Sexual Partner is Yourself!
It is safe to say that 2020 and the beginning of 2021 has been a very stressful time for us all! However, regular masturbation can be an effective form of self care – Something that we all need to practice during these tough times. Masturbation, sex toys and phone sex are classed as the safest options (BBC 2021). British Vogue (2020) state that 4 out of 5 people state that they feel happier and less stressed after masturbation. The sex toy industry has sky rocketed in revenue since the pandemic began (Vogue 2020). So not only masturbation can be one of the safest way to enjoy sex during the pandemic, it is also a popular form of self care!
Sexting and Video sex can be an important, safer alternative to in-person sex during the pandemic. However, people should be aware of the dangers of revenge porn. Revenge porn is now illegal in the UK. People should report to the police if they suspect they have been a victim of revenge porn. The BBC (2020) reports that the number of calls to the Revenge Porn Helpline have surged since the pandemic began. Make sure the person you are sexting is trustworthy and establish boundaries through good communication about each other’s nudes, explicit videos etc. For more info about where to get help about revenge porn, visit the guidance on the BBC (2018) website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-42789294
Be Aware of COVID Symptoms!
Let’s remind ourselves of the three key symptoms that indicate Coronavirus:
- A consistent high temperature ≥ 38.0℃
- Persistent cough
- Loss of taste and/or sense of smell
If you or your sexual partner have any one of these symptoms, you should refrain from all sexual activity and apply for a COVID test through the government website https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test .
Can the Virus Spread Through Sex? Myth or Fact?
Current evidence shows that coronavirus can spread through saliva, mucus or the breath of people who have it, along with contact with hard surfaces. The virus has been found in semen and feaces, which is why you should use condoms and dams for oral sex to minimise risk. Washing your hands for more than 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser before and after sex is recommended.
Regular STI Screening is Still Important!
If you have refrained from having sex during the pandemic, it is important to think about your sexual health before starting to have sex again. It is strongly recommended to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases before commencing sexual activities again. Sexual health clinics aren’t operating a walk-in service during the pandemic to minimise COVID transmission. However, you can apply for a free confidential STI testing kit through the Frisky Wales website: https://www.friskywales.org. The testing kit can be mailed directly to your chosen address with confidential packaging. We recognise that getting tested for an STI can be a daunting and embarrassing process, however the Frisky Wales scheme can help to remove those negative feelings. Take a look at the SHAG Facebook page to watch an unboxing of a standard ‘Frisky Wales’ testing kit by our lovely Sian, SHAG Social Media Secretary.
- BBC (2021) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-53736087
- BBC (2020) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-52413994
- BBC (2018) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-42789294
- Terrence Higgins Trust (2020) https://www.tht.org.uk/news/new-advice-sex-while-managing-covid-19-risk-released
- Government website (2021) https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
- Vogue (2020) https://www.vogue.co.uk/beauty/article/sex-toys-increase
Frisky Wales (2021) https://www.friskywales.org